HE News Brief 4.5.10

by Abby Chau


A late post with news articles for week commencing May 4th:

  • The pressure to do well on international league tables has caused a few UK universities to allegedly put pressure on students to fib on the National Student Survey. According to complaints logged with the HEFCE, students at Swansea, Anglia Ruskin, Derby, Leicester, Portsmouth, Sunderland, Kingston, and London Metropolitan were pressured by university lecturers and heads of department to score high marks on their university experience.
    Full Story: Telegraph
    More: The Guardian
  • Education stocks dropped when a U.S Department of Education official compared for-profit institutions to Wall Street firms who caused the financial meltdown. Deputy Undersecretary of Education Robert Shireman said that not only is training at these institutions questionable and they deplete federal education funding, but oversight in accrediting these for-profits is dubious.
    Full Story: Bloomberg Business Week

  • Brazil will play an instrumental role in rebuilding Haiti’s devastated Higher Education system. According to a cooperation memorandum between the two countries, academic agreements will be discussed to promote internationalisation and scholarship programmes will be introduced for Haitians who plan on post-graduate study.
    Full Story: iStockAnalyst
        Read more

HE News Brief 26.4.10

by Abby Chau


A few Higher Education news articles to ponder before the long Bank holiday weekend:

  • Measuring the quality of universities in Africa, particular East Africa, is a new measure established by the African Union in order to ensure the caliber of graduates. Universities are asked to respond to the African Universities Quality Rating Mechanism, a questionnaire that seeks to assess the quality and development of education and research at institutions.
    Full Story: The East African
  • Wales is outpacing England in recruiting under privileged and diverse students? According to a report from the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales, Welsh universities in some cases are recruiting more disadvantaged students than English institutions.
    Full Story: 
    Wales Online
      Read more

HE News Brief 21.4.10

by Abby Chau


The volcanic ash no doubt dominated headlines this past week. However a few higher education newsworthy pieces also managed to generate some heat:

  • UK students threaten politicians with rebuke if they back raising tuition fees. The Head of the National Union for Students have identified 20 “student battlegrounds”, including Newcastle, Manchester, Liverpool, Birmingham, Sheffield, Reading, Cambridge, London, Southampton, Bristol, Leeds and Oxford.
    Full Story: BBC News
  • Ecuador seeks to transform their higher education system, starting with issuing higher standards for professors. Ecuadorian president Rafael Correa said that it is crucial to have first rate professors and that rectors must play an important role in support this new legislation.
    Full Story:
    Inside Costa Rica 
    Read more

HE News Brief 6.4.10

by Abby Chau


A few higher educational news articles of interest this week include:

  • Two Cuban medical students spoke at U.S universities recently, marking the first time in years such an exchange took place. They will discuss Cuba’s initiative to bring medical care to places around the world who need it most. Cuba sent 300 medical professionals to Haiti recently.
    Full Story: Washington Post
  • Israel is set for new educational reforms that will hopefully augment the availability and quality of higher education. Students will play a pivotal role in the proposed reforms.
    Full Story: Lariat Online
    Read more

HE News Brief 30.3.10

by Abby Chau


Cash cows, tuition hikes, and the dramatic increase of research produced by Chinese universities are a few topics we discussed today at our staff meeting. Have a read and tell us what you think.

  • International students are not ‘cash cows,’ says British Council Chief Executive Martin Davidson. Warning against treating international students like an export industry to buffer against the university funding squeeze, Davidson says that doing so may harm UK universities in the long run.
    Full Story: BBC News
    More: Telegraph
  • A different take on students protesting tuition hikes in the University of California systems. The real costs of additional fees viewed as inconsequential.
    Full Story: New York Times
    More: Associated Press, Wall Street Journal
    Read more

HE News Brief 23.03.10

by Abby Chau


Here is another set of higher education-related news that not only dominated media headlines this past week, but also fueled debate at our staff meeting today:

  • The proposed university budget cuts dominate the higher educational headlines. This one in particular is an insightful, albeit gloomy, read of the future diagnosis of universities.
    Full Story: BBC News
  • More: A related article on whether UK educational rankings are going to falter. The Independent.
  • Global universities are poised to attract UK students with their promise of more affordable education and a rising reputation for academic excellence.
    Full Story: The Independent

Will the higher education budget cuts in the UK fuel international competition for students?

by Deena Al Hilli


Last week the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) announced the funding of £7.3 billion for universities and colleges in England, which is a reduction of £449 million from previously announced plans for the 2010/11 financial year.

These university budget cuts have sparked varied reactions nationwide. Many issues such as job losses, larger class sizes, denied access to thousands of students and closure of courses have been raised in the aftermath of the announcement. Amid the fears is that international institutions will now gain a competitive edge, as the quality of UK institutions become at risk.

A major concern that has risen is that the higher education sector in places like Asia, Europe and some parts of the USA is receiving increased funding to get out of the current economical crisis, whilst the UK is working in the reverse order. Wendy Piatt, Director General of the Russell Group, said “Our competitors in Europe, Asia and the US are pouring more resources into higher education as a strategy for coming out of recession.” The group also said, ”If government targets these huge cuts on university budgets they will have a devastating effect not only on students and staff, but also on our international competitiveness, national economy and ability to recover from recession.” In an article for the Guardian, the Russell Group also says, “Nicolas Sarkozy has just announced an investment of 11bn Euros in higher education in France, stating he wants ‘the best universities in the world.’ Germany pumped a total of 18bn Euros into promoting world-class research alongside university education, while Barack Obama ploughed an additional US$21bn into ­federal science spending.”

Britain is a very popular destination for international students, particularly with Indian students. However the Indian government recently announced plans to allow foreign universities to offer degrees and set up campuses in India, which may reduce the number of Indian students studying in the UK.   However, it appears that UK institutions need to limit the number of spaces per course in any case, as government enforced fines will take place with over recruitment of students. Six thousands fewer students will gain places at university this year. With Europe, Australia and New Zealand welcoming an increased number of British applicants, could this lead to international institutions gaining those six thousand places and more? Or will leading UK institutions be able to sustain their competitive advantage?

Sir Alan Langlands, Chief Executive of HEFCE said, “This is a challenging financial settlement, but we are doing all that we can to support excellence in teaching and research by keeping across-the-board reductions in core funding to universities and colleges to a minimum. Our approach will also give institutions maximum flexibility to pursue their priorities.” Read more

HE News Brief 16.03.10

by Abby Chau


We thought we would start sharing a summary of what we have been reading and discussing each week. Here are a few items that generated a bit of buzz this week:

  • The parting of ways between Times Higher Education and QS is generating a substantial amount of traffic in the blogosphere.
    Full Story: University World News
    More: Inside Higher Education
  • An educational reform proposal in India that would allow foreign universities to set up shop in India. Some say this will help Indian students who want an education, others decry the proposal as only benefiting wealthy families who can afford it.
    Full Story: BBC News
    More: Telegraph UK
  • Dramatic rise of university management pay causing a stir as it was revealed that the highest-paid Vice Chancellor received an annual salary of £474,000.
    Full Story: Guardian News
    More: Universities are hiring managers at three times the rate of academics (Telegraph UK)
    Read more

Language education at the heart of mobility

by Ben Sowter


An interesting piece on British language education over the weekend, took me completely by surprise http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2010/feb/07/anushka-asthana-french-language-education.

I had managed to completely miss the British government abandoning compulsory language education after 14 back in 2002. I know how many languages I would have taken to GCSE had I had the chance to choose, and much like the writer of this piece, I reflect on things wishing I had taken it a little more seriously. I now travel widely and find myself persistently apologizing for my lack of language skills, and everyon I meet, probably most of the readers of this blog are multi-lingual.

There are some deeper problems with British language education also – I was never taught French, in French and is French really the most pertinent language to be the natural second choice, whilst it may be the most helpful for casual trips to our neighbouring country, Spanish would seem more versatile, or Mandarin more business topical.

So with numbers having plummeted we have one more reason why the current and next batch of prospective university students will be even less open (or equipped) to take up international study opportunities.

Politics and higher education – a volatile mix?

by Ben Sowter


I can’t help but have a little admiration for Nicolas Sarkozy. Regardless of whether or not you agree with his positions – he at least seems prepared to actually do something. Not without a little resistance, however. There have been plenty of protests at all levels in response to his education reforms but the latest loosely represents a mutiny by the Grandes Ecoles as reported last month in The Telegraph – http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/france/6941075/Nicolas-Sarkozy-faces-revolt-from-elite-French-colleges.html.

In a nutshell, the Grandes Ecoles are resisting an attempt to force them to take 30 percent to their intake from under-privileged backgrounds. On the one hand, the populist view is that such students are disadvantaged when faced with the extremely challenging entrance exams, on the other that standards will drop if entry requirements are relaxed.

Both views seem valid, but the key battleground may not be at university admissions age but earlier – with a view to driving standards, and aspirations, amongst more diverse students sooner. Or alternatively to focus on diverse entrants to the often expensive preparatory classes rather than the Ecoles themselves which appeared to be Sarkozy’s view just 14 months ago: http://www.javno.com/en-world/sarkozy-tackles-discrimination-in-french-education_215815